Month: July 2007

Gloucestershire’s Ley Lines

Posted on Updated on

map.jpg 

Ley lines, also known as “leys” and “dragon lines” are phenomena most people have heard of but few really understand. Indeed it would be fair to say that no-one understands them fully, as they remain largely unexplained.

Are there ley lines in Gloucestershire? If so, do they really ‘pass through’ allegedly haunted places?

From what we do know, a ley line seems to be a straight line that carries an altered form of the earth’s magnetic field, however it is proving difficult to define that power even to this day.

It has been claimed that birds, fish and animals use them as ‘compasses’, helping them find direction back to breeding grounds and to warmer climates during winter months. They have also been said to be vast prehistoric trade routes.

An article in New Scientist magazine, published in 1987, suggested that species as diverse as pigeons, whales, bees and even bacteria can navigate using the earth’s magnetic field.

It is thought that a tissue containing a substance called magnetite is responsible for this.

Magnetite enables living creatures to sense magnetic changes and has been found in human tissue linked to the ethmoid bone in the front of the skull.

So what defines a ley line?

Ley/Li/Lei : “The supposed straight line of a prehistoric track usually between hilltops” (Concise Oxford Dictionary)

This is the general and most widely accepted description of a ley line, but what, then, do they have to do with allegedly haunted places?

“[Ley lines are] alignments and patterns of powerful, invisible earth energy said to connect various sacred sites, such as churches, temples, stone circles, megaliths, holy wells, burial sites, and other locations of spiritual or magical importance”. (Harper’s Encyclopaedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience)

The scientific belief, as previously explained, is that these lines are areas of altered magnetic fields.

The more spiritual and romantic belief is that they ooze back the energy from all the people who have trodden these mystical, religious paths since time began.

So why are hauntings reported in places ley lines are alleged to pass through?

For the believer it could be said that these areas are likely to have more spirit activity as they are historically of a religious, political and even mystical nature.

It is even believed that UFOs are drawn to these ley lines, making them attractive to investigators of that particular phenomenon.

It is true that more ‘paranormal’ activity is evidenced in these areas however whether this is of the spirit type or paranormal in its true sense (‘unexplained’) is still a topic of much debate.

For the follower of the more scientific approach, other explanations for the seemingly increased incidents of paranormal activity are possible.

stonehenge.jpg

Generally it is believed that electro-magnetic fields can affect the body and mind. Again this to some extent must be true if magnetic fields affect the magnetite in the human brain.

But other effects of this type of energy are said to be similar to those of static electricity: feelings of ‘tingling’ on the skin and hairs standing on end.

The energy is thought to produce vibrations on a low frequency which, although inaudible to the human ear, can alter perception and create sensations of dizziness and unbalance. In extreme cases it is thought to be able to cause nausea and headaches.

These symptoms mirror those often described by people who feel the presence of spirits.

A phenomenon often reported during investigations is that of technical equipment behaving erratically. This is certainly very common at the Ram in Wotton under Edge.

Again, we have to ask ourselves: is this spirit-based or could it be the effect of electro-magnetic fields on the equipment we use?

Could energy from the earth itself be tampering with our audio/visual devices causing interference in some way?

This may account for incidents of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) on audio recordings, by changing the frequency of the evidence.

The weather can also influence investigations, for example ‘hauntings’ are often reported during thunder storms.

Maybe this is due to psychological reasons, the result of horror films where there is always a storm as the evil spirit grows stronger. Or perhaps it is because there is in fact more ‘paranormal’ activity during a storm.

Again this, to the believer, could be a spirit getting energy from the power around it.

To the scientist it could be the electricity linked with the storm causing natural phenomena that makes us feel something other than the ‘norm’ is happening, or the electrical power around us affecting our senses and perceptions.

ley-lines.jpg

How are ley lines found?

Geomancy is considered to play a strong part in the location of Leys.

The science of geomancy demands that structures be placed within the landscape according to certain magical formulas that included the laws of mathematics and music and used in such a way as to provide a harmonic setting for the monument.

The general belief is that prehistoric man was aware of these cosmic lines under the earth and sought to build his sacred structures along them in order to tap into their magical properties.

Major prehistoric structures of higher importance can frequently be found to occupy locations where two or more leys intersect with each other.

The priests or shamans of prehistoric man would have been expected to find these leys and work out their connection with other existing monuments accordingly. It is also believed that many ancient groves, worshipped by the Druids, sit upon leys.

Local spiritualists report a ley line running North-North East through the county of Gloucestershire, and that several ley lines converge in Wotton-under-Edge.

There are no known ‘maps’ of UK leylines, or even Gloucestershire ley lines.

Alleged ley lines are often identified by spiritualists “dowsing” with
rods. Such methods are questionable in their accuracy, so the alleged placing of ley lines should be treated with some scepticism.

______________________________________

By Dave Wood (Paranormal Site Investigators), Anne Piper (Gateshead Paranormal Investigators) and Cindy Nunn (Anomalous Phenomena Investigations), from BBC Gloucestershire

Advertisements

Ark of the Covenant

Posted on Updated on

arc.jpg 

No ancient relic causes so much controversy as the Ark of the Covenant. The subject of Spielberg’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, featuring the intrepid Indiana Jones, the film does not exaggerate the passions the mystery of its location and power entails.

Believed to have been constructed from acacia wood by Moses on Mount Sinai about 1250BC, the wooden chest is overlain with solid gold on both the inside and outside. 3ft 9in long and 2ft 3in wide and high, it has a lid of solid gold with a pair of cherubim. Gold rings attached to the Ark’s sides allow poles to pass through to be carried.

WHY AN ARK?

Built according to Divine instructions, the Ark carried the two tablets upon which God scribed the Ten Commandments. Symbolic of the covenant God made between Himself and the people of Israel, it was said to be the focus of God’s presence.
Carried by Levites, members of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, it always went ahead of the Israelites as they wandered through the desert, even going ahead of their armies as they waged war.

When camped, the Ark was placed at the centre of a temporary sanctuary known as the Tabernacle. This centre became known as the Holy of Holies. Once the Promised Land was conquered and the Temple constructed at Jerusalem, the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies of the temple.

In this respect we can see the Ark as the central symbol of faith. Some mystical Jews have even drawn an analogy of the Ark, with its two tablets inside, with the brain and its two cerebral hemispheres. The Ark remained the centre of their religion until after the Exile to Babylon in the 6th century BC.

OBJECT OF MYSTERY

Today there are two central mysteries concerning the Ark of the Covenant – namely, where is it, and what strange powers did it have? The former enigma comes from its remarkable history.

According to the Old Testament, some time around 1000BC the Ark was captured by the Philistines. For reasons we will narrate later, they eventually let it go, sending it away strapped to a cart pulled by two cows.

Reclaimed by the Israelites, they took it to Kiriath¬ Jearim, with King David eventually taking it to Jerusalem. Here, in 955BC, King Solomon placed it in the Holy of Holies of the first Temple.

At one stage one tradition speaks of it being stolen by Menelik, son of Solomon and Sheba and taken to Axum in Ethiopia. Another tradition speaks of it being taken by the prophet Jeremiah to an unknown cave prior to the Babylonian destruction of the Temple in 587BC.
What exactly happened is not known – it could have been simply destroyed – but the Ark was never seen again.

WHERE IS IT?

There are several theories concerning the location of the Ark. In 1952 a scroll known as the Copper Scroll was found near the caves at Qumran where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The scroll purportedly contains a list of sacred items that used to reside in Herod the Great’s second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

Among the listed items, it is thought, is the Ark. This discovery eventually fascinated American archaeologist Vendyl Jones. As director of the Institute for Judaic Christian Rsearch in Texas, Jones, who claims to be the real Indiana Jones, led an expedition to the area in March 1992. Claiming to have unearthed incense from the Temple, in May the Israeli Antiquities Authority suddenly stopped the excavation without explanation.

Could the Ark be buried near Qumran? Graham Hancock thinks not. According to him, the Ark remained in the Temple at Jerusalem until about 650BC.

arcadaalianca02.jpg

CHURCH OF ST MARY

At this time Judea was ruled by a pagan king called Manasseh. Fearing he would destroy the Ark, the priests clandestinely removed it to a new temple in Elephantine in Egypt. In 410BC this temple was destroyed.

Rescued, Hancock claims the Ark was taken to Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and in 350AD to Axum. Being placed in a specially constructed Church of St Mary of Zion, except for minor removals during medieval times, it has remained there ever since.

To this day the church is guarded by a single monk known as the guardian of the Ark, spending his entire lifetime protecting the relic and allowing no one inside.

Whether the real Ark is really in the church, no one knows, but certainly a replica of the Ark exists here, and is carried in procession once a year during the feast of Timkat. However, apart from the mystery of its location, just as intriguing are powers that are said to be invested in the Ark.

REMARKABLE POWERS

The Old Testament speaks clearly of the Divine power of the Ark. When captured by the Philistines, they quickly got rid of it when they came down with a terrifying plague which caused cancerous tumours.

At Jericho the Ark was marched around the walls, and it is said to have been its power that caused the walls to fall down. Others who inadvertently touched it were instantly killed, and only a chosen few could manage to carry it on its poles, well over a hundred yards ahead of the people. Moses himself is said to have had a face that shined, and usually wore a cowl, after building the Ark.

Due to such powers, many theories have been offered as to what the Ark really was. Some even believe it was actually a small nuclear reactor, hence the cancerous boils, Moses’s ‘radiation effects’ and its seemingly miraculous power.

POWERS EXPLAINED?

Of course, easy answers can be placed on the powers of the Ark. It is well accepted that the walls of Jericho fell due to earthquake activity. Similarly, belief in its power was all that was needed for the Philistines to imagine disaster, possibly even causing some form of hysterically induced poltergeist activity.

As for the dangers of boils from being too close to the Ark, suggestion can easily cause illness in such a superstitious culture. Curses are known to happen in many primitive societies, based on the absolute belief that a curse can work.

But all this is irrelevant to the real power of the Ark. Thought of as the throne for the earthly power of an invisible God, it represented the very centre of faith to the people who birthed the idea of monotheism.

In this, sense, whether real or imagined, the Ark remains an icon of world-changing proportions. And there is no greater power than this.

© Anthony North, May 2007

Retreats With Peace of Mind

Posted on Updated on

mon1.jpg 

SINCE the Middle Ages, monasteries in Europe have opened their doors to pilgrims and travelers. Today, monastic hospitality is also extended to tourists, who are attracted by the low price tag, the secluded medieval ambiance and the unspoiled locations.Spain has several dozen monasteries and nunneries that accept guests, many in sites of great natural beauty.

Most such religious establishments in Spain are geared toward modern travelers, but some monasteries and nunneries open their doors to either men or women only and limit guests to those who genuinely seek solitude and retreat. None require participation in religious activities although punctuality for meals and respect for the monastic way of life are requested.

Recently I decided to visit two of these — a monastery that takes both men and women as guests and a nunnery that takes women only, each for a weekend. Both institutions are on the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrims’ route that crosses northern Spain from east to west to the tomb of Saint James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela.

The Benedictine monastery of Valvanera, nestled in the mountains of the Rioja wine region, offers good hiking and bird watching. Medieval towns with a wealth of historical sites are only a short drive from the monastery through picturesque countryside of rolling hills and vineyards.

The Cistercian nunnery, San Miguel de las Duenas, is at the edge of a small town of the same name in northern Leon, also near a cluster of medieval sites. I chose these two mainly for their nearness to historic and scenic sites, although the monastery had been highly recommended by Spanish friends as an unbeatable weekend retreat. The nunnery, near a mysterious 10th-century castle, seemed like an adventure to share with my 8-year-old daughter, Andrea.

From Madrid, I set out for Valvanera with my husband, Jose, and youngest child, David, 5, on a weekend in late January. It was about a four-hour drive on the new four-lane N1 highway and toll road to Logrono. At 3,200 feet above sea level, the 15th-century Gothic monastery loomed above us, set into the steep slope of Mount Mori in the Distercio mountains. We followed a winding road alongside a rushing mountain river toward the abbey, half-way up the narrow lushly wooded mountain valley.

As we approached the brownstone abbey complex at dusk, a few hooded monks, in the black Benedictine habit, were returning to the cloister. An enormous keyring jangled in the hand of one who locked one of the thick wooden outside doors of the abbey, built in the 17th century at a right angle to the church. It seemed incongruous to be driving through a Gothic stone archway into a small parking area. However, a cubbyhole tavern in the three-foot-thick wall of the abbey hostel reminded us we were in 20th century Spain. The tavern serves local Rioja wine, other beverages and snacks for those who fail to adhere to the strict monastic mealtime schedule, we later learned.

Walking through the driveway, one sees a lookout perch with a view of the narrow wooded valley below. The rushing of the rapids, the occasional clanging of a distant cowbell, and the cacophony of birds settling down created an overwhelming sense of solitude. The forest on the opposite mountainside seemed a little over a stone’s throw across the valley. The dozen monks in residence own their own livestock and cultivate vegetables and fruit trees on narrow terraced ledges for a few hundred feet below the lookout and parking area. Every inch of land is cultivated to make the abbey almost self-sufficient using seasonal homegrown produce. About 200 feet to the left of the lookout station and under a small cliff is a small chapel where the monks are buried.

mon4.jpg

Brother Martin, the “innkeeper monk,” was waiting to welcome us. Stout and jovial, he is the life force of the monastery for guests. He showed us around parts of the abbey open to the public, which included the 15th-century church, a large vaulted-ceiling living room and the hostel.

According to legend, the abbey church dates back to the fourth century, but most of the present structure is 15th century, constructed over an 11th-century Romanesque sanctuary. The church itself, made with local brownstone, looks like a miniature cathedral, compressed to a two- or three-story building. Colorful modern abstract leaded glass windows have replaced the originals and, during winter months, masses are held in a heated modern chapel to the left of the main altar.

“It’s too cold in here for services,” Brother Martin apologized. Unfortunately, it was also too cold for Gregorian chants, which the monks sing inside the cloistered part of the abbey during winter instead of in the church’s choir of carved walnut chairs. Men, however, can ask permission to sit in on the chants.

Valvanera is best known for its 11th-century Romanesque wood sculpture of the Virgin of Valvanera, patron saint of the Rioja. A granite stairway to the right of the altar leads to a back chamber where one can see it at close range. The polychromed Virgin is seated with the Christ child twisted in an anatomically impossible position with his feet and legs pointing backward. “That is because He turned His head to avoid seeing the looting of Napoleon’s troops,” Brother Martin explained with a mischievous smile, referring to Napoleon’s conquest of the area in 1809. Centered behind the Virgin’s chamber lies the sacristy where antique ornaments are kept, which can be arranged to be seen with a monk.

In the church library, which you must also arrange to visit accompanied by a monk, ask to see an exquisitely illuminated codex dating from the 10th century, which is part of a collection of 29 leather-bound codices and songbooks. Monastic records show that Queen Isabella stayed at the abbey in 1482 to venerate the Virgin of Valvanera.The library room itself was not particularly interesting and the lighting was poor.

A 17th-century Renaissance brownstone abbey, rather ordinary, where the monks live, flanks the church and is closed to visitors. Joined to the abbey at a right angle, another two-story 17th-century building, remodeled somewhat shabbily in the 1950’s, has 30 guest rooms that have recently been retiled. Shuttered windows through two-foot-thick walls overlook the valley and abbey on the south side. During the day, sunlight floods the rooms. On the north side, windows look into the steep and rocky mountainside a few feet away.

ALL rooms have private baths with plenty of scalding hot water, and central heating, which is turned down at night, but you can ask for extra blankets. The austere 10 foot-by-16 foot rooms are furnished with beds that must date from the 1950’s restoration. (Anyone with back problems would do better with the mattress on the floor.) Double and single rooms have a desk with a gooseneck lamp and a comfortable armchair. Rooms for three and four people do without the desk and armchair. A religious painting decorates the bare white walls.

The only telephone is a cabin next to Brother Martin’s office in the hallway, but he is rarely there, meaning you may not be able to make phone calls whenever you wish to, andthere is no television or radio reception in these mountains.

Bells rang at 8:30 sharp for dinner and guests sat at assigned tables in a simple dining room. The tables had pink and white tablecloths and a blue-jean-clad hired waitress helped Brother Martin serve a frugal dinner of fresh winter garden vegetables, an omelet and freshly baked bread while he chatted with with each of the guests. Each table gets a bottle of excellent local wine that stays until the next meal and is replaced as needed.

After dinner we were all invited to the majestic vaulted living room for a nightcap of the monks’ own herbal liqueur, Licor del Monasterio de Valverna, which they also sell. Seated on hard wooden benches and chairs, we all huddled around a dwindling fire in one of the two huge stone chimneys.

Brother Martin appeared and pointed to four of the men, including my husband. “You, you, you and you. Follow me,” he ordered. Dutifully, they followed him through the No Entrance door, through the dark cloister, down dank narrow stairways, down to the distillery, past the herbs drying and finally out to a porticoed courtyard where they loaded up with firewood, and Brother Martin picked up two bottles of liqueur.

The fire was soon blazing as we sipped the medicinal-flavored spirits in the sit-around-the-campfire atmosphere. “This is Valvanera,” Brother Martin beamed as he poured us all another shot.

The next morning, after a buffet breakfast of cheese, toast, honey from the abbey beehives, with coffee, tea or instant hot chocolate (cold cuts were also available), we set out for a hike through the mountains. Several dirt roads, as well as steep goat paths and trails, lead to the rapids below or up to snow-covered Mount Mori.

Within an hour the abbey gleamed far below us in brilliant sunshine and the silence of the crisp mountain air was broken only by a wild birds, the mournful lowing of a lost cow and my impatient 5-year-old, ahead of us, yelling “Come on!” The lush vegetation had changed to hardier scrubby trees and brush.

Exhausted by our hike, we returned to the abbey to find the parking lot full of local bicyclists who had arrived for lunch. Sunlight poured through the enormous arched windows of the living room, where some guests were relaxing, and at lunch the dining room was almost full. The weekend menu is more varied, with hearty meat and bean stews and regional specialities such as salt cod with sweet red peppers, boiled potatoes with thistle stalks and borage, or salt cod with chickpeas and chards.

I found the buildings slightly underheated. Wool sweaters and socks are a must to feel comfortable. When I groused about the chill, Brother Martin said jokingly: “If you are looking for all the conveniences, go to a hotel.”

A few weeks later in February, I took my 8-year-old daughter on a weekend visit to the nunnery of San Miguel de las Duenas in Leon in northern Spain on the final stretch of the Santiago Trail. The convent is a huge complex, way out of proportion to the surrounding small town, despite the fact that there are now less than a dozen cloistered Cistercian nuns in residence. It dates to the 10th century, but only a Romanesque doorway to the Chapter Room survives from that period. The church, which is open to the public for services, is an unremarkable 17th-century building; the convent’s 18th-century exterior is austerely neo-classic with small barred windows. There are two simple belfries with resident storks that had returned unusually early.

We arrived at sunset and the granite buildings gave off a glow. Old-fashioned street lights illuminated the tidy grounds of the convent. Children played in a schoolyard.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tras la pista de san Guillermo

Posted on

st_guilhem_abbaye_de_gellone.jpg 

SAN GUILLERMO fue un caballero-monje muy admirado por las órdenes de caballería debido a su valentía y religiosidad. Tanto es así que una de estas órdenes le erigió una ermita que dio nombre a un monte de Fisterra.

El cardenal Jerónimo del Hoyo, que visita la ermita en 1607, dice que había un sepulcro donde estuvo el cuerpo del santo. Además, cuenta la leyenda de un ermitaño de Fisterra que pretendía subir desde la costa por la ladera del monte hasta su refugio un tonel de vino que le había sido regalado por unos franceses, cuando un demonio disfrazado de campesino se le presentó, y lo hizo rodar cuesta abajo, estrellándose el barril e hiriéndose su portador.

Este relato coincide, como sugirió Benjamín Trillo, con un pasaje del libro Vie de Benoît d’Aniane, del año 823, escrito por el hermano Ardon, sobre un monje al que se veía con frecuencia llevar pellejos de vino sobre el asno que montaba. Este monje era Guillermo, conde de la ciudad de Toulouse, Francia, y que más tarde fue nombrado duque de Aquitania por Carlomagno, primo de su abuelo Charles Martel.

Invasión
Cuando los sarracenos invadieron el sur de Francia en el año 793, Guillermo con su ejército los expulsó, y en el 801 cooperó en la reconquista de Barcelona. Regresó a su patria, y en el año 806 se retiró a la abadía benedictina de San Salvador de Gellone, que él mismo fundó en el 804, en la vía tolosana que va a Santiago; plantó viñas, creó una biblioteca, enriqueció su iglesia con reliquias como un trozo de la cruz del Señor y es allí donde hoy reposan sus restos.

A este convento se refiere, en 1417, Nomper II Señor de Caumont y caballero de la Orden del Santo Sepulcro, cuando visita la ermita de San Guillermo: «Allí hay una gran montaña donde está ubicada una ermita que recuerda a la de Saint-Guilhem en el valle de Gellone», hoy llamada Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert en Hérault, Francia.

En 1426, Sebald Rieter visita la ermita y escribe: «Allí yace el cuerpo del venerable señor San Guillermo que hizo en Fisterra muchos milagros».

Nicolas Popplau escribe en 1484, que en la Iglesia de Santa María de Fisterra se exhiben las reliquias de un brazo de San Guillermo en un relicario de plata; pues bien, en 1151 Raimon, abad de Sant-Guilhem-le-Désert, hizo este regalo a los Templarios de la iglesia de Sante-Eulalie-de-Cernon, al sureste de Millau, encomienda principal de Larzac, que traerían a Fisterra años más tarde. Y esto explica varias cuestiones…

Explicaciones
Primero, que una escuadra francesa haya robado en 1552 las valiosas reliquias del santo que estaban en la iglesia; segundo, que Fray Martín Sarmiento en 1745, cuando llega a la ermita, se encontrara una imagen de «…San Guillermo de piedra vestido de agustino…», siendo que el santo era benedictino, pero la regla de San Agustín fue la que observaron los Templarios originalmente; tercero, que la Orden del Temple que erigió la ermita fue prohibida por el Papa, hecho que explica la negativa arzobispal de 1901 al pueblo de Fisterra en su intento de reconstruirla (iniciativa que valdría la pena retomar hoy día), y, cuarto, que existan varios textos extranjeros haciendo referencia a esta villa y a su santo foráneo.

Por todo lo expuesto, difícilmente podríamos creer que San Guillermo sólo fue un eremita que el pueblo canonizó y no percatarse de la importancia de este santo, como sí lo hicieron un cardenal y un fraile benedictino.

by JUAN GABRIEL SATTI BOUZAS in http://www.lavozdegalicia.es

The Babylonian Captivity of the Catholic Church

Posted on Updated on

avignon.jpg 

After years of scandalous publicity and tasteless priest jokes, the Catholic Church is settling out of court for a record $650 million in disbursements to victims of sexual abuse that occurred as far back as the 1940’s. Hoping to launch a new beginning in Los Angeles, the American Cardinal Roger Mahoney apologized to the plaintiffs, and regretted he could not turn back the clocks of time and repair their childhood.

In other words, the Church had sinned, and was seeking forgiveness. This is certainly not the gravest crisis within the Catholic Church, but the connection of bail out money, homosexuality and a costly apology is reminiscent of a darker period of the Church’s history when money was the root of a religious scandal that eventually brought about the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

In the Middle Ages, the Popes were, ultimately, businessmen- the administration of Church property and the distant geographies of Europe’s Catholics meant that a great deal of power and money changed hands quickly. It is ironic that the French Pope Clement V moved the entire seat of the Catholic Church to the French city of Avignon in 1307 as a direct result of the French king Philip’s oppression of the Knights Templars, who were suspected of homosexual activity. Ostensibly, the so-called “Babylonian Captivity” of the Papal office in Avignon for 70 years was aimed at cleansing the Church of its avarice- witness the suppression of the Templars- but it achieved little along these lines.

It was during these dark times in the Church’s history that corruption replaced the proper hierarchy and salvation became a blessing up for sale. In order to raise money for the new leaders of the Church, it became possible to pay the church in order to secure a lucrative position in the bureaucracy (simony), or to make sure that a favorite nephew got a job for life (nepotism- from the Greek nepos for nephew). But the most ingenious marketing campaign was directed at the Church’s sinners- of which there were many. A spurious argument was advanced that over the past 1,000 years the good deeds of the numerous saints were an asset of the Church that could be sold in order to achieve salvation and entrance into heaven. They were called “indulgences”, and when a guilty relative of a recently-deceased loved one made a contribution to the Church, the seller of the indulgences would draw on this moral bank account of the saints and withdraw an all coveted “get out of purgatory free” card for the sinner.

In 1377, the Papacy finally returned to Rome at the trusty hands of Pope Gregory, who immediately upon taking up residence there died. Another Pope was elected, but he was Italian, and this served to irk the French king so much that they decided to keep their own Pope in Avignon- resulting in two competing Popes. Naturally this meant double the corruption, which weakened the Church and shook the faith of the believers considerably. It was only in 1409 that the Church elders called a council to resolve the dreadful situation, and they finally agreed on one single Pope- who was elected that same year.

But neither the Pope in Avignon nor the Pope in Rome wanted to give up their jobs, so they boycotted the new Pope, resulting in 3 Popes. Finally in 1417 another Church council was able to push its will through by electing one, universal Pope- Martin V- but the institution’s reputation was irretrievable damaged by the past 120 years of scandal and corruption.

luther-bibel.jpg

It would take exactly another 100 years before Martin Luther- a lawyer by education- would read in Romans 23 that salvation could be found exclusively through the righteousness of God. Without invoking yet another Church council to decipher what this meant, Luther interpreted it to mean that salvation could be attained by simply reading the word of God- the Bible. The simplicity of the notion, together with the countless princes, kings and noblemen who longed to be free of the confines of Rome, created a movement that would result in devastating European wars until the Peace of Augsburg granted religious freedom- but to the nobility only.

The Catholic Church will ultimately survive this sex scandal and put it behind the alter, but without external or even internal control of a patriarchal system based on loyalty and theology only, there is room for more abuse of power in the minds of people who believe in the sanctity of the Church and its spiritual leaders.

by Tracy Dove, editor of The Russia News Service, is a Professor of History and the Department Chair of International Relations at the University of New York in Prague, in US Politics Today